Speculation about the next GPU in the iMac

Tomorrow is Apple's big iPhone event day, with a dash of Apple Watch and software thrown in. However Mark Gurman reports no new Macs at this event, so in lieu of real products announcements I thought I'd add some speculation about the new iMac GPUs now that AMD has released their brand new Radeon chips.

iMacs have used mobile graphics cards (GPUs) since 2011, when desktop GPUs started to get too hot for the iMac to cool. Apple flippled flopped between AMD and Nvidia as their supplier, before finally settling down with AMD for the retina iMac.

AMD make fine graphics cards, but in recent years Nvidia had the edge in terms of performance, heat, and power usage. The current top of the range AMD graphics card in the iMac, the Radeon R9 M395X, just doesn't compare well to Nvidia's 970M, even though on the spec sheet the AMD card should be faster. But in comparison the AMD card is slower, more power hungry, and thermally throttles when pushed.

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AMD Polaris

AMD's long term solution was a major overhaul of their archectecture called Polaris, to improve what they call Performance per Watt. With the release of the desktop AMD RX480 and RX470, there's no doubt that AMD have made up a lot of ground on Nvidia, yet a noticable gap still exists when you compare the latest generation of both companies.

This isn't likely to deter Apple in choosing AMD as their GPU supplier again though, as the preferential pricing from AMD sweetens and sourness from not having the best avalilable.

There's also the potential of custom APUs with the release of Zen next year, with a big CPU and GPU packaged into one chip like the Xbox One and PS4, but that's another topic entirely.

What will Apple pick

The problem for Apple, is the new mobile Polaris GPUs aren't very fast. The mobile version of the RX480 is based on a cut down chip with half of almost everything, making it much slower than the outgoing R9 M395X.

Apple will need to use the desktop AMD GPUs again to even maintain performance with the previous generation, let alone improve it.

This year is the first time in a while where they can use desktop AMD GPUs. The RX470 is rated at 120W TDP, which compares with the current M395X's 125W TDP. If Apple can put a RX470 into the iMac, that will offer a 50% performance increase over the M395X for roughly the same power usage.

Conclusion

Will Apple use a RX470? I hope so, although they can get away with a slower RX460 and still improve over the previous generation, the iMac can handle the RX470 and it would be a shame if it wasn't an option at least.

The base GPU would then be the RX480M, which is comparable to the outgoing M380, and I'd imagine the RX460 or similar as the mid range.

This does pose a problem with branding, with the RX460 and RX470 being much faster than the bottom of the range RX480M. So like the Mac Pro I expect AMD to allow Apple to have their own model names, perhaps W460, W470, and W480:

Good: AMD RX480M 2GB (W460)
Better: AMD RX460 4GB (W470)
Best: AMD RX470 8GB (W480)

An App a Month in 2016: 1. Circle Test

Every year I tell myself I don't do New Years Resolutions, they have a tendency to set one up for failure or have goals that are so benign you wonder why you had to wait for new years to do it.

But every year I find myself succumbing to a feeling I get only on January 1st, the feeling to try something new and make this new year different from the last one. I suppose it's a natural human reaction when you reach the age of 30, a kind of annual mini-mid-life-crisis where I look back at the previous year and wonder what the fuck did I do.

So for this year, in an effort to do something with my life, I will try to release something I've made every month for 12 months. Now I know what you're thinking, this either sounds like bullshit or I'm just going to draw a cuddly cartoon animal every month and look smug for the other 29 days. But I want to challenge myself while at the same time doing something I can finish in 30 days, so I'm going to make a game.

Circle Test

My first unimaginatively named game is Circle Test. This started out as an idea for a tvOS game before I realised that almost no one I know has an Apple TV that can run it. The first challenge probably should be something I can get some feedback on otherwise I'm just making crap for myself here.

The app icon was graciously made by Paul Wallas


The app icon was graciously made by Paul Wallas

The goal is simple, see how good your hand to eye coordination is by mashing your iOS device when the red semicircle is colliding with the purple semicircle. Through some non-scientific testing I did which has yielded statistically irrelevant data:

  • an average person after a night out and a few drinks can get around 20
  • someone with the ability to really concentrate for more than 10 seconds at a time can get around 30
  • a seasoned Counter Strike: Global Offensive player while wearing some cool gaming glasses should get over 35

The target area gets generally smaller and the speed faster as your score goes up. That's it.

So if you were wondering how I'm going to release a new game or app every month, the answer is by keeping the scope small but with wiggle room to ship. I can be sure that at the end of every month I will have that smug look someone has when they've shipped something on my face.

If you're still here and you haven't downloaded Circle Test yet, why have you read this far?

Because Open is Always Better

Google are doing some questionable things with new TLDs, and the Internet is letting them get away with it:

My point is that if you think Google is some kind of Patron Saint of the Open Web, shit son. Tim Cook on his best day could not conceive of a dastardly plan like this. This is a methodical, coordinated, long-running and well-planned attack on the open web that comes from the highest levels of Google leadership. And we’re giving Apple a free pass? Pshaw.

Because we all want .blog TLD to be used exclusively buy the hot internet startup called Blogger right?

Pinboard turns five years old

I find that the longer I run the site, the more resistant I become to the idea of ever giving it up, even if I need to take the occasional break. It is pleasant to work on something that people draw benefit from. It is especially pleasant to work on something lasting. And I enjoy the looking-glass aspect of our industry, where running a mildly profitable small business makes me a crazy maverick not afraid to break all the rules.

Pinboard is the outlier, it bucks the trend, or maybe its the trend setter. I know I've been a very happy customer for over four years.

We can learn a lot from Maciej Cegłowski.

dot net notts

Marvin Rounce and I are thrilled to announce dot net notts, a user group for .NET stack developers.

We hoping to build a first-class community of .NET developers from across the East Midlands, and we have an incredibly lineup of speakers and generous sponsors.

Our first event is on April 28 and features Richard Conway talking about Microsoft Azure.

Make sure you RSVP on Meetup to get your free beer and pizza on the night.

Bamboo iPhone Case Review

As far as cases go, Snugg's Bamboo Case for iPhone is a pretty good one.

I've never really used cases, much to the detriment of the exterior of my iPhone. Cosmetically it has lots of the typical nicks and scratches from an 18 month old black iPhone 5, but anecdotally the screen seems more resisitant to cracking when dropped. I speak from experience after dropping my iPhone from pocket height with a case on and still having the screen crack.

However there are situations where I wouldn't be comfortable using my iPhone without a case, and travelling to the Arctic Circle is one of them. When Snugg offered me the case to review, Finland seemed like the ideal place to try it.

The first thing you notice is the weight, or the lack of it. I find it hard to tell if the case is on purely by weight alone. But, you will certainly notice the bulk. It makes the iPhone feel twice as thick as it normally does, which makes it more comfortable to hold, especially with gloves on. Personally I don't like how bulky the case is, but those with bigger hands might prefer it.

The second problem is how close the edge wraps over the front, this makes doing edge gestures much harder, something common in iOS 7 for common actions like swiping back in Safari.

The case is reasonably well made, although it does feel a bit flimsy around the volume and wake/sleep buttons. Expect those areas to suffer first.

Overall if you're in the market for an iPhone case and fancy something with an exotic material, the Snugg Bamboo Case is a pretty good case. Personally, I prefer the leather Apple iPhone case as the attention to detail and workmanship are the best of any case I've seen.

Neil Young's Pono

Why push back against 24/192? Because it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, a business model based on willful ignorance and scamming people. The more that pseudoscience goes unchecked in the world at large, the harder it is for truth to overcome truthiness… even if this is a small and relatively insignificant example.

I find it interesting how rational people get duped by this kind of psuedo-science when it involves music.

Why Google Needs 'Don't Be Evil'

"Don't be evil" is synonymous with Google, it's their corporate identity. But have you ever stopped and wondered why? Why does Google need to remind itself that it needs be good, and why it's their slogan?

Google's strategy is to sell advertising. To do that, it needs to collect user data in order to show relevant adverts so it's customers will buy more ads. The nature of this strategy pushes Google towards being evil. It has to collect very personal and sensitive information about it's users, and some of the best minds in technology are working at better ways to collect information and sell ads.

It still boggles my mind how many people don't see Google's motivations, and what they may or may not do with all the data Google is collecting about them. They see Google as a company that offers them lots of free software for nothing in return, and they are only too happy to use it. To them, "Don't be evil" doesn't have (or need) a paticular meaning.

But the users who are conscious of Google's strategy, this is where the motto "Don't be evil" really starts to make sense. If you are aware, then there is a constant tension between how many of Google's great products you should use, and the amount of data you are willing to give to Google. What are they going to do with this data? Who are they going to sell it to? Do I even know what data they are collecting about me? "Don't be evil" is designed to placates these questions, and to remove the tension from using their products. Google's ongoing success with online services is evidence that "Don't be evil" was a brilliant move.

But we have a choice, a choice to use products from companies with a strategy that doesn't push them towards being evil, companies that don't need "Don't be evil" as their motto.

Vote with your data, don't give it to Google.

The new-new Mac Pro

Lots of people were worried when the new-old Mac Pro was released last June. It was an incredibly incremental update, with slightly newer CPUs and a slightly reduced price. People interpreted this as Apple abandoning the pro desktop market in favour of their prosumer models.

They couldn't have been more wrong.

macpro.jpg

We didn't want to just make another version of the same old desktop idea that everyone's had. Like with MacBook Air, our engineering team has spent quite a bit of time thinking about the technology available today and what could be possible for the future of the pro desktop, what would be a new form factor, new design, new capabilities for another ten years.

The new-new Mac Pro embodies what Apple does best, completely rethink a product and refine it's category. This almost always leads to complaints from some users who aren't happy with the changes made. The lack of internal expansion or upgradability is the main gripe, and another is that the smaller doesn't benefit them.

Their ideal scenario would've been to keep the old Mac Pro case, and stuff it with the latest internals. But if Apple did that, it would be another sign of the demise of the Mac Pro, a sign that they didn't care. But by putting the effort into redesigning and rethinking the concept of a pro desktop computer, Apple has set the standard of the next generation desktop.

Will we see more pro desktop machines from competitors similar to the Mac Pro? I'm sure Samsung already has one in the works, but given the history of how long it took them to respond to the MacBook Air, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Very, very flat

The new interface is said to be “very, very flat,” according to one source. Another person said that the interface loses all signs of gloss, shine, and skeumorphism seen across current and past versions of iOS. Another source framed the new OS as having a level of “flatness” approaching recent releases of Microsoft’s Windows Phone “Metro” UI.

I can't wait to see what this looks like.

The New York Times gets its Pulitzer for picking on Apple

It didn't matter that every major U.S. electronics company assembles its products under the same working conditions -- or worse. Or that Apple was actually doing something about them. (Tim Cook called the Times' implication that Apple didn't care what happened to its subcontractors' workers "patently false and offensive.")

The fact is, the New York Times knows how to win Pulitzers -- better than any other journalistic operation. It has now won a record 112. It employs editors who specialize in identifying Pulitzer-winning topics and assigning reporters who will bring them home.

And that's what it set out to do -- with Apple as its conspicuous subject -- in seven major stories capped with a self-serving kicker that suggested that it was Times' reporting that led to substantive changes in the working conditions in China's electronics factories:

I guess winning is a higher priority than being correct.